Disclosure: Batter & Cream delivered a complementary 10-pack of mini-whoopie pies to That’s So Manhattan to try.
Most people have dreamed at some point about walking out on their jobs and following their passion. Liz Fife had the first part down. But after quitting her job as an investment banker, starting a whoopie pie business at just 25 years old with virtually no baking experience wasn’t exactly an expected outcome.
“Up until that point I don’t think I ever turned on an oven in my entire life,” say Fife.
As a born-and-raised New Yorker from the Upper East Side, her kitchen avoidance made sense, but before she started Batter & Cream, her career wasn’t making much sense to her.
She had been at Lazard for a little over three years after graduating from the University of Pennsylvania, and at first she enjoyed working for the private placements group, raising money for private companies. This allowed her to work closely with entrepreneurs and pick up some experience in that realm. However, she then switched groups to work with much larger companies, which she hated.
“So I up and quit because I didn’t enjoy the aspect of banking where you’re not making a big difference,” says Fife.
Plus, she was working seven days a week and all hours of the night. “I figured if I was going to work those hours I might as well really love it and work for myself,” she says.
To find out what she loved, Fife spent the next few months speaking with people about what they did for a living and what their jobs were really like. In doing so, she met some people that owned their own business. “And that idea really stuck out at me,” she says.
During that time, she had also finally decided to open her oven door. As a fan of eating baked goods, she started making her own and realized that she would love to own her own baked goods company.
Out of all the baked goods to build her business around, Fife chose the less-heralded whoopie pie after randomly coming across the recipe. Specifically, Batter & Cream specializes in mini-whoopie pies (only a tiny fraction of the business is for standard sizes), which can be consumed in two to three bites and are reminiscent of cupcakes from Baked by Melissa.
“I thought [mini-whoopie pies] were really the perfect mix between a cupcake and a macaron…and they allow you a lot of the flexibility that a cupcake does in terms of being able to try a lot of different recipes and a lot of flavors, but they’re easier to eat and cuter and something different.”
With her direction set, Fife hired Food Startup Help, a company formed by instructors from the Institute of Culinary Education in New York, who helped her hone her baking skills and get her business off the ground. By August 2013, about half a year after quitting Lazard, Fife got an order that would whip the fledgling Batter & Cream into a frenzy.
Of all the ways to start a business, Fife was fortunate enough to have a friend recommend her whoopie pies as a party favor for a People Magazine party. The problem was that the 1000-whoopie-pies order was a monstrous task for her at the time, whereas now it would be much more manageable. Back then, the size of the order was so daunting that she and her boyfriend (now fiancé) had to cancel their planned vacation so they could bake and deliver the whoopie pies in time.
From there, though, business was on the up-and-up.
Fife was able to get Batter & Cream into the last few weeks of the season for Smorgasburg, the hugely popular outdoor food market in Brooklyn. That fall, they moved into a commercial kitchen in Brooklyn, though their office is in Manhattan, and Fife hopes to eventually consolidate the baking operations into a Manhattan office space.
Her business model, however, has bypassed the traditional retail store route and has instead been based on online orders, catering, and some pop-up shops, such as having a spot at the Union Square Holiday Market.
“It seems like in today’s world it’s less and less people going to stores to buy things, especially gifts and non-necessities. So i just keep putting the storefront on hold because it just hasn’t seemed all that necessary.”
About half of Batter & Cream’s orders are in New York, mostly in Manhattan, and they ship nationwide. A lot of people send the whoopie packages as gifts, says Fife. Sure enough, the standard packaging comes with a bow and appears ready-made to be a gift.
The pricing fits with an upscale Manhattan lifestyle, though, with a 10-pack box of mini whoopie pies ringing in at $15.50, with a $12 hand delivery fee in Manhattan. (Full disclosure: Batter & Cream sent a complimentary 10-pack to That’s So Manhattan to try.) However, New Yorkers can order the whoopie pies through Postmates for just a $3 delivery fee. Plus, if the circumstances allow for it, customers can pick up orders from Batter & Cream’s Midtown office.
In addition to coming in cute packaging, the whoopie pies themselves are tasty little treats, and the variety of flavors makes them fun to try. The most popular flavors are cookie dough — which now uses the delicious cookie dough from Do (another NYC food business with a similar model) as its filling — as well as cookies and cream, and chocolate peanut butter pretzel.
Batter & Cream uses all fresh ingredients, which makes some flavors seasonal, like Fife’s favorite, strawberry basil. “It tastes like the best part of summer that you can have,” she says.
Aside from the location logistics, Batter & Cream is looking to expand its variety, such as its recent customization options via sugar printing on edible paper that goes on top of the whoopie pies.
Plus, Fife says she’s always coming up with fun flavors.
“I love getting as weird as possible,” she says. “I really want to do a chocolate curry flavor.”
The challenge, however, is getting enough traction for a flavor to make it worth it to stock the fresh ingredients.
But judging by Fife’s ability to overcome the challenge of starting a business in a brand new territory for her, dealing with flavors should be a breeze. Take it to the bank — Batter & Cream is on the rise as a unique part of Manhattan’s food culture.